It's your last year of high school, congrats for making it this far! This is the year that big decisions are made! Here are some very important steps to take when preparing to apply to college.
Make sure that you are checking your college checksheet for Test Score, Application, and Scholarship Deadlines. Using a College Planning Sheet will allow you to organize all you need to apply. For a downloadable copy of the College Planning Sheet, check out the Planning Guides page. If you are just now beginning your college planning, visit Choosing the Right College page to see what you need to be looking for.
The SAT/ACT are tests that everyone needs to take to get into college. But no fear, there are practice SAT/ACT Prep books and free online sources for you to use. Make sure you check the testing requirements for colleges you're interested in to determine what tests you need to take. Some colleges, depending on the major you choose, will require you to take an SAT Subject Test. This is basically an SAT Test based on a specific subject like Math, English, Science, etc.
It is important that you take the SAT and/or ACT before October of your senior year, so you have enough time to send your scores in before the deadline!
More Information about the SAT
More information about the ACT
*Due to COVID-19, many schools are now waiving the SAT/ACT requirement for students applying for college this year. Contact the admissions office the college you are interested in to find out more
Recommendation letters can break or make your college application. It is important to ask someone you trust will speak highly on your behalf. Try to think of someone who can speak about your academic abilities, leadership skills, or your skills outside the classroom. If you are required to provide more than one letter, let the first letter be from someone who can talk about your academics and the second letter be from someone who can talk about your leadership in your school club, sports team, etc. Note that some schools may ask for letters from specific people like a math or chemistry teacher. For more tips on how to ask for a letter, choosing the right recommended, etc click here.
College Application Essays & How to Stand Out
Your application essay is one of the most important parts of your college application! You have to remember that the people reading your application do not know you, so you must tell your story the best you can. Your story is what makes you unique so tell them exactly what makes you different from everyone else and why you deserve to be at their school.
If you are not the best writer or need help formulating your essay, no worries! You can send in your draft essay to firstname.lastname@example.org and have it reviewed and receive one-on-one assistance to help enhance your essay. For tips on how to make your essay stand out click here.
FAFSA & Scholarships
October 1st is the date to remember! That is the day the FAFSA opens for your parents to fill out so that you can receive financial aid for college. What is Financial Aid? Basically they look at your parent's income from the previous year to determine how much money you will receive in aid to help you pay for college.
The earlier you fill out the FAFSA the more money will be available for you! For more details visit the Finding Funding Page.
Scholarships are very important for funding your college experience. You can apply to some scholarships provided by the school before you get admitted, so do not wait until May! It's also important to fill out the FAFSA because schools may use this to determine what scholarships you are eligible for. You can also receive scholarships and grants throughout your college career, so you don't have to only bank on getting all your scholarships Freshman year of college.
Visit the Scholarships page to learn more about different resources to find scholarships and more!
Preparing Your Application
I recommend applying to at least five schools. Three being your top choices and two being "back up schools". Back up schools are schools you know you will be a top candidate for but it may not be high ranked on your personal preference list.
There are a lot of keywords that are used when filling out the application that may be confusing. Visiting the Ready to Apply page will break down these keywords and give you a checklist of things you need to have before you apply.
What Do Colleges Look For?
Every university is different but there are a few main aspects that they look for when deciding which students get admitted.
Some of those things are:
- High School Curriculum (How much you challenged yourself)
- Standardized Testing
- College Interest (College Visits, Summer Camp Participation)
... and more! To find out more about what college admissions look for click here.
Tip: Paying for Standardized Tests can be expensive. There are also options of getting a fee waiver for your SAT, ACT or AP Courses based on your family's income. You can ask your school counselor for assistance, or contact SAT/ACT Testing Helpine.